Sheriff seeks county funds to pursue national accreditation

Process would cost about $23,000 for training, certification

February 11, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County Sheriff's Department asked the county commissioners yesterday to fund its effort to become a nationally accredited law enforcement agency within a year.

The department won recognition 15 months ago from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, the first step in the process that traditionally leads to stronger crime prevention and control as well as improvements in management practices, confidence among residents and interagency cooperation, according to the commission.

"Accreditation is a nationally used management tool to guide practices and gauge the performance of the agency and its training," said Cpl. Phil Kasten, professional standards officer with the Sheriff's Department.

Of the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, only 6 percent have won accreditation from the commission, established in 1979 to establish best management practices, commission officials said.

"Your sheriff's office has taken a big step," said Capt. Barbara J. Hopkins of the Annapolis Police Department, a commission member. "[This] is the only sheriff's office at the recognition stage in the country. There are 62 sheriff's departments accredited out of more than 3,000 in the country. It is not easy to attain, but it is the best way to show that your sheriff's office is practicing the best standards."

The accreditation process, which involves meeting more than 430 standards, would cost the county nearly $23,000 for training and certification.

The county commissioners made no decision yesterday but said they would include the proposal in their budget deliberations this month.

"It is a grueling process, but it is the best money ever spent on law enforcement," said Howard County Executive James N. Robey, who is also a commission member. The Howard County Police Department won accreditation 17 years ago. "You would get a return on your investment."

Accreditation would mean the Carroll department would also undergo audits every three years "to demonstrate that it is doing what it says it is doing," Kasten said.

Sheriff Kenneth L. Tregoning said a fully accredited agency would enhance community-oriented policing and would be invaluable as the county writes its law enforcement master plan for the next 20 years.

Steven D. Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff, said law enforcement accreditation "is definitely an item to consider. We will make sure that it is fully articulated."

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